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brand new, from the bodies of the "hundreds of mutilated and mangled
NVA" there.24


During the late morning of 22 January, a Marine helicopter took Lieutenant Stampler back to the Khe Sanh base to consult with Colonel Lownds about the feasibility of continuing the defense in the village. According to Lownds, upon Stampler's recommendation and after "long consideration and proper evaluation of the facts," he decided to evacuate the units.25


The resulting evacuation rook place under chaotic conditions including North Vietnamese shelling. Sergeant Balance remembered, "We received an agonizing radio message . . . from an emphatic and concerned Lt. Stampler celling us to pack up." According to Balance, "no R.F.'s or Bru with their 'uwpons would be allowed on the helicopters to return to the combat base." He recalled that six helicopter evacuation missions flew out of the village that day. As the first helicopters took off, a group of frightened Vietnamese civilians rushed to board the aircraft. Balance fired "a few M-70 rounds" in the opposite direction, causing them to hold back so that the wounded could be taken out first.26


The helicopters took out all of the American wounded including two U.S. Army sergeants from the Advisory Group. Captain Clarke also had received orders from Robert Brewer, the Senior Quang Tri Province Advisor, to evacuate the headquarters. According to Clarke, Brewer had not wanted to abandon Khe Sanh Village, but in that Colonel Lownds could not provide any further artillery support, there was no longer any choice. Clarke and one of his advisory sergeants declined to board the helicopters. They led the remnants of the 195th RF Company and several of the Bru safely to the FOB-3 compound along a secret trail.27*


Photo courtesy of John J. Balance

Cpl
Bruce Brown. LCpl Frank Batchman, and Sgt John J. Balance. members of
Combined Action Company Oscar who served with the Bru Montagnards in
the Khe Sanh village complex, are seen at the secretive Forward Operating
Base (FOB) 3, next to the Khe Sanh base, where they set up new positions
with their Bru Popular Force troops.

Sergeant Balance departed on the last helicopter to leave the headquarters
compound. Just before he boarded the aircraft, two civilian Bru approached
him carrying a badly burned man and asked the Marine to take him on
board. At the same time, the pilot was shouting: "No one except Americans
could go on the LAST CHOPPER OUT and he was departing RIGHT NOW!" Taking
out his pistol and thinking to put the wounded man out of his misery,
Balance suddenly changed his mind. He returned the pistol to his holster
and "screamed for everyone to move back and got him on that last chopper
out." After arriving at the Khe Sanh base, the Marines of Combined Action
Company Oscar, including CAP-3 which also evacuated its hamlet located
north ot the headquarters, joined the RF troops and the Popular Force
Bru at the southern edge of the FOB-3 compound.28**

Reinforcement and Fighting Back


On 22 January, Khe Sanh Combat Base was the scene of frenetic activity. The resupply effort continued as 20 Air Force C-123 sorties delivered another


* There seems to be some doubt whether Colonel Lownds ordered that
the RFs and the Brus not be evacuated by helicopter. According to Lownds'
interview, he ordered the evacuation of the Bru CAPs and RFs. but they
and Captain Clarke elected to walk out rather than board the helicopters.
Col Etavid E. Lownds intvw, 13Mar68, pp. 22-23, in Khe Sanh: Transcriptions
of Oral History, MCHC. Given the accounts on the ground by both Clarke
and Sergeant Balance, it is obvious that the RFs and the Bru would have
boarded the helicopters if they had the choice. It may very well have
been that Colonel Lownds' orders may have been misunderstood or that
the situation on the ground may have determined the decision not to
evacuate them. In any event the relations between che Army advisors
and the Marine command with the exception of the CAP Oscar Marines was
not very ^ood. Colonel Clarke later wrote: "It was so bad that the Marines
were eavesdropping on our radio nets ... In this regard, l had coordinated
to have my own alternate communications back to Quang Tri." Clarke Comments.

** Captain Clarke later that afternoon led a Special Forces Strike
Force from FOB-3 which destroyed everything of value in the Khe Sanh
Village headquarters. Clarke Comments and Balance, "Abandoned," p.186.





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